Comerford, Whipps: Legislature should reconvene to finish tax relief proposal

  • State Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol FILE PHOTO

  • State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 8/4/2022 9:46:54 PM

While it may be rare that candidates from opposing parties find themselves in agreement, such is the case with the lone Democrat and the two Republicans currently running for governor when it comes to issuing tax relief for Massachusetts residents.

Attorney General Maura Healey, the only Democrat in the race, and former state Sen. Geoff Diehl and businessman Chris Doughty — both seeking the GOP nomination — are all calling on the Legislature to go back into session to consider some form of relief for taxpayers. On a more local level, it’s something that state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, and state Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, agree on as well.

Lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would provide about $1 billion in tax relief — $500 million in one-time tax rebates and $500 million for several permanent tax cuts — before the end of the session in the early-morning hours of Aug. 1.

Talks to hammer out a compromise version of the House and Senate versions of the measure stalled because of the discovery of 62F, a 1986 law requiring that tax revenue above a certain amount collected by the state go back to the taxpayers. It is estimated that the 1986 law would return $2.5 billion in fiscal year 2022 revenue to Massachusetts taxpayers.

Senate President Karen Spilka wants to see permanent tax relief for residents.

“I am very disappointed that agreement was not reached to move forward with consideration to the 1986 law so that our progressive tax relief package — which passed unanimously in the Senate and targeted relief to seniors, renters and low-income families — could also move forward,” Spilka said in a statement. “The Senate is committed to working with our partners in the House and the administration to finally deliver the tax relief that residents deserve, as soon as we can.”

Comerford said her team is “quite, quite upset” that the economic development bond bill that included the tax relief measures did not get approved before the end of the session and that she would “support going back into session — without question — to be able to work on a solution with the House.”

“The economic development bond bill became exceedingly important, both as a spending vehicle and as a bonding vehicle, and as tax package vehicle,” Comerford said. “It addressed four things: spending, taxes, bonding and policy.”

Comerford hopes lawmakers will be called back to Beacon Hill to sort out the differences between the two chambers relative to the bond bill.

“I’m hoping we go back very soon,” she said. “But we need time to really sort through what this means — the financial impact — and then come back and pass an economic bond bill this session.”

The senator noted conversations around the 1986 law could be quite involved.

“What is the effect of 62F going to be?” she asked. “How should we pay for 62F? What intersection does it have with the tax package? Where is the range of tax breaks being proposed by both chambers? I think those conversations became intertwined in a way that was hard to detangle.”

For her part, Whipps said she “would be very happy to return to formal session.”

“I don’t believe our work is done,” she said. “The economic bill that got snagged during the final hours of formal session had a great deal of crucial funding for our struggling hospitals, communities and citizens. In this time that unprecedented funds are available, we should do everything we can to push these important measures over the finish line.”

Said Whipps: “I have faith that the conferees and our legislative leadership are doing everything they can to see this through.”



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